Wine fraud may have met its match with a new rapid and sensitive wine authentication method developed by an Adelaide-based research team.
The team, headed by Associate Professor David Jeffery, University of Adelaide, uses a pioneering instrumentation and chemometric technique called A-TEEM to authenticate the geographical origin or the varietal origin of wines.
Encouragingly, in a recent study the technique was shown to be 100 per cent effective on the samples used in the study.
Ruchira Ranaweera and David Jeffery.
‘The application of fluorescence spectroscopy for wine authentication is a relatively novel technique, so we did not predict such an excellent outcome’, said Ruchira Ranaweera, a Wine Australia PhD scholarship recipient who led the project as part of her doctoral curriculum at the University of Adelaide.
‘The findings are exciting as the technique effectively creates a ‘molecular fingerprint of wines’ according to the presence of fluorophoric compounds. When used in combination with robust multivariate data analysis such as extreme gradient boosting (a machine learning algorithm), it is proving to be a powerful technique for authentication.’
Typically, scientists use a technique called Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) to analyse wine elements. The new A-TEEM technique uses spectral data from an Absorbance, Transmission and fluorescence Excitation-Emission Matrix to discriminate wines according to their geographical origin and varietal.
The Adelaide University-based team tested a range of 2015 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon wines from 3 wine regions of Australia and the Bordeaux region of France.
‘We wanted to see if we could use the A-TEEM technology and a multivariate algorithm to effectively and economically identify wine samples produced from various regions in Australia and France’, Ruchira said.
‘Our study showed that is possible.’
Ruchira said the new technique could benefit the wine sector from a number of angles.
‘If we can authenticate the geographical and varietal origin of wine, we add value to the brand. And because the method is user friendly and gives rapid results with high sensitivity, it has the potential to be used in the supply chain as well as in a laboratory setting.’
‘By offering a protection or verification mechanism, it strengthens the value of place of origin in the minds of consumers, which could be economically beneficial for regional producers.
Other than authenticity, Ruchira said other potential useful applications of the technology for the wine sector included phenolic and wine colour analysis, and smoke taint detection.
Even though the team hadn’t crunched the numbers yet, compared to other highly sensitive analytical methods that may be used for authentication, the A-TEEM instrumentation alone was ‘much more cost effective.’
Ruchira said the next step of the research was to assess a broader range of wines according to variety, vintage and region.
‘We would want to do this before applying this technique in a winery or supply chain setting. But we’re thinking this instrumentation could become commonplace in the sector within five years.’